The Beautiful Brain explores the latest findings from the ever-growing field of neuroscience through monthly long-form essays, reviews, galleries, short-form blog posts and more, with particular attention to the dialogue between the arts and sciences.
Three artists. Three approaches to visualizing our inner landscapes. This month we present interviews with Constance Jacobson, Audrey Goldstein, and Heidi Whitman, three contemporary artists whose work is decidedly brain-themed, ranging from sculpture, to painting, to performance art and beyond.
Be sure to check out our exclusive online gallery of selected works by each of these artists as you listen to the interviews about their artistic process, their specific interests in the brain, and the potential– as well as the limits– of the dialogue between the arts and the sciences.
Three interviews and a roundup of the latest neuroscience news all in this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast. Total runtime: 55:40
This month we are delighted to present an interview with Mark Changizi, author of The Vision Revolution, an active blogger, and an assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
His research aims to grasp the ultimate foundations underlying why we think, feel and see as we do. Focusing on “why” questions, he has made important discoveries on why we see in color, why we have forward-facing eyes, why letters are shaped as they are, and why the brain is organized as it is.
His research has been published in numerous journals and has been covered in many mainstream outlets, such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, USA Today, and Time Magazine, among others. The full interview with Mark Changizi and a roundup of the latest news from the brain sciences, all in this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast. Total runtime: 1:01:38
This month we are proud to present an interview with Joseph LeDoux, the acclaimed neuroscientist and bestselling author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self. LeDoux’s research into emotion in the brain has led to groundbreaking findings in the realms of fear and memory. His primary area of concern is the amygdala, the center of fear processing in the brain, and most recently his work in animal models has uncovered just how flexible and dynamic memory can be… kind of like Joe himself, who also is the frontman for the rock band The Amygdaloids, whose brain-themed songs will be released in an album featuring Rosanne Cash later this year. Science, rock music, and the news, all on this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast. Total runtime: 33:42
In the second edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast we examine the relationship between painting and mental illness and injury through interviews with Dr. Anjan Chatterjee of the University of Pennsylvania and internationally celebrated artist Katherine Sherwood, who suffered a massive stroke in 1997 but continued to paint following the stroke, switching to her left hand. We’re also excited to present an online gallery here at The Beautiful Brain featuring some of Katherine Sherwood’s paintings, which incorporate scientific imagery of her own brain, and some of her more recent works inspired by the drawings of the great Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal. Dr. Chatterjee is a leading researcher on the neuropsychology of art, examining the effects of mental illness and injury on art and using the art itself to form hypotheses about what happens in the brain during the creative process. Those interviews, the news, and a report on a recent synesthesia symposium in New York City all on this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast, hosted by Noah Hutton. Total runtime: 34’30
The University of Copenhagen, pictured above, hosted the first annual Copenhagen Neuraesthetics Conference.
This month, in our inaugural edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast, we explore the young and somewhat chaotic world of neuroaesthetics, which seeks to answer questions about creativity, the mind of the artist, and the mind of the observer. Noah reports on his trip to the Copenhagen Neuroaesthetics Conference and interviews John Onians, a founder and pioneer of neuroarthistory, which uses the empirical findings of neuroscience to help explain historical trends and cultural differences in visual art across centuries and around the world. Total runtime: 32’00″
In this month’s issue of Harper’s magazine, legendary biologist E.O. Wilson—the ant man who also authors books about the meaning of existence—takes on consciousness and the brain. The article, “On Free Will,” carries the unsurprising subtitle: “And how the brain is like a colony of ants.” He runs down the essential anatomical, functional, genetic and evolutionary information about the brain, defining the complex organ and its unique importance. Then, he relates the efforts of philosophers to find a physical basis for consciousness, which may or may not exist, and who knows where. Wilson is optimistic about research programs such as the Brain Activity Map (BAM) project, which seeks to observe neurons in real time and connect their activity to mental processes. He talks about animal consciousness, ant colonies, human perception, and internal storytelling. “Confidence in free will is biologically adaptive,” he concludes. “WIthout it, the conscious mind, at best a fragile, dark window on the real world, would be cursed by fatalism. Like a prisoner serving a life sentence in solitary confinement, deprived of any freedom to explore and starving for surprise, it would deteriorate.”